Dozens of vendors lined the sidewalks in Main Street park, Allen Street, Memory Lane, and the area around the Dawsonville City Hall. The smell of kettle corn, boiled peanuts and barbecue filled the air, and music played from one of the large speakers on a trailer near the Racing Hall of Fame. People wove in and out of the lines of booths, smiling, taking photos, and shopping for the perfect Christmas present or gift for a loved one.
Despite rainy weather, K.A.R.E. for Kids and city of Dawsonville officials say that the 53rd Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival was an overall success, drawing people from all over to the Dawson County to see the classic car show, pursue handmade arts and crafts, partake in all kinds of fair foods and celebrate the humble beginnings of modern racing.
The festival lasted all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and through the scattered storms that popped up over the weekend vendors remained open and attendees remained cheerful.
“People were everywhere, it was unbelievable,” K.A.R.E. for Kids Executive Director Tiffany Buchan said. “People wanted to get out because they’re tired of being cooped up.”
This year was the first year that both Hwy. 53 and Hwy. 9 remained open for the festival. It was also the first year that Main Street Park was finished and available for vendors to set up in.
These changes, according to Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason, made sure that traffic was able to flow smoothly through the city, cutting down on congestion in the downtown Dawsonville area.
“We were most excited about the traffic flow through downtown, and we heard from a lot of our local businesses that they were able to stay open and do business which was great for them,” Eason said. “There was some confusion based on it being in a different location, but I really do think all in all it was a very good festival.”
Buchan said that the feedback on the new location was overwhelmingly positive, both from festival attendees and vendors.
“People that came to the festival told me they loved the new location and they thought everything was just a lot closer,” Buchan said. “Our vendors loved the new city park, and overall I think it was a great festival.”
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The hope is to be able to work any confusion and issues out before next year’s festival, so that the next event can work even more smoothly.
“I would think that next year we’ll have a lot more vendors and an even better functioning event, because this was the first time it’s ever been done like this so there will always be kinks and unexpected things that occur in anything like this,” Eason said.
Buchan said that she and the rest of the K.A.R.E. for Kids team took dozens of pictures and pages of notes on what to improve for next year’s festival, and that as soon as the organization’s Christmas gift program is over for this year, she and the board will turn their eyes toward next year’s festival.
“There are always issues with anything, but we took notes and videos and pictures, and as soon as Christmas is over we’ll be able to start with our festival for next year and try to work all of that out,” Buchan said.
All proceeds from the event go to buy Christmas presents for children in the community whose parents can’t afford to buy them gifts. According to Eason, at the end of the day, the most important thing is raising money for that goal.
“I hope they were able to raise enough money for the kids,” Eason said, “because that’s what it’s all about is the kids.”
After the festival Buchan said that despite COVID-19, which led to a lower number of visitors than usually attend the three day event, K.A.R.E for Kids was able to raise quite a bit of money for the Christmas program.
“We make our money in vendors and in parking, and we were very successful in parking this year,” Buchan said. “So overall we were very pleased with the outcome; Christmas I think is going to be great. We were really pleased when we got our final numbers last night.”